A feared confrontation between Iraqi police and a group of Iranian exiles living in the country’s eastern desert was apparently averted on Wednesday when the group’s leaders tentatively agreed to a U.N. plan to resettle them near Baghdad.
Representatives of the Iranian resistance group, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, announced that 400 of its members were ready to move immediately to new quarters on the grounds of a former U.S. military base outside the capital. If all goes well, the approximately 3,000 remaining Iranian dissidents living the “Camp Ashraf” compound could follow them in the months ahead.
“As a sign of goodwill, 400 Ashraf residents are ready to go to Camp Liberty with their moveable property and vehicles at first opportunity,” said a spokesman for the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, the MEK’s political arm.
The fate of the exiles has been the subject of a heated lobbying campaign in Washington, with a host of political and security officials pressing the Obama administration to provide U.S. troops to protect residents of Camp Ashraf against attacks by Iraqi security forces. Dozens of residents have been killed in skirmishes with police inside their facility since 2009.
The dissident group had wavered on whether to accept a U.N.-brokered plan for the peaceful dismantling of the camp, their home since being invited to Iraq in the 1980s by then-leader Saddam Hussein.
But MEK officials said they were willing to accept U.S. pledges of civilian monitoring during the months-long process of relocating the dissents and finding permanent homes for them outside Iraq.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced on Sunday that Iraqi officials had agreed to the U.N. resettlement plan, setting aside a threat to close the MEK’s base by force.